"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rethinking Hagar, Fearless Jesus, Chinese Women

Here are blurbs from books I've been reading in January.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of them.

In his book The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011  author Melvyn Bragg notes how different groups had read the biblical stories differently.  For instance Hagar was often seen much differently than this:

"In America, several black feminist historians have seen Hagar as someone with whom it is easy and important for former slaves to identify. She is seen as a slave forced into a pregnancy for the convenience of Abraham and the determination of Sarah that he should fulfil his dynastic destiny.  Then she is expelled for no fault of her own, out of jealousy and the possessiveness of the non-slave wife when she has no need for her. She is, like the African-American slaves, a thing, an object, to be used at will and rejected when the use is over and thrown out without a thought for her future life or that of her child.

'... Hagar, like many black women, goes into the wide world to make a living for herself and her child with only God by her side.'" (pg. 291)

In Jesus Before Christianity, Albert Nolan writes:

There are no traces of fear in Jesus.  He was not afraid of creating a scandal or losing his reputation or even losing his life. All the men of religion...were scandalized by the way he mixed socially with sinners, by the way he seemed to enjoy their company, by his permissiveness with regard to the laws, by his apparent disregard for the seriousness of sin and by what we would call a bad reputation: 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard.' ...In terms of group solidarity his friendship with sinners would classify him as a sinner....In an age when friendliness toward any woman outside of one's family could mean only one thing, his friendship with women and especially with prostitutes would have ruined whatever reputation he still had...Jesus did nothing and compromised on nothing for the sake of even a modicum of prestige in the eyes of others. He did not seek anyone's approval....His family thought he was out of his mind...; the Pharisees thought he was possessed by the devil...; he was accused on being a drunkard, a glutton, a sinner and a blasphemer but nobody could ever accuse him of being insincere and hypocritical nor of being afraid of what people might say about him nor of what people might do to him.

Jesus' courage, fearlessness and independence made people of that age ask again and again, 'Who is this man?'

(pg. 144)

And finally from the book I'm currently reading: Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother by Xinran

"Chinese women down the ages have never had the right to tell their own stories. They lived on the bottom rung of society, unquestioning obedience was expected of them, and they had no means of building lives of their own. So 'natural' had this become that most women wished for only two things - not to give birth to daughters in this life, and not to be reborn as a woman in the next."  (pg. 35)

This book is incredibly interesting though very sad and infuriating at times.  Can you believe a two thousand year old law which gives boys land and girls nothing has contributed to so many infant girls being "done"?  This is the country euphemism for smothering or strangling or dropping your newborn into the slop bucket so it would drown. 

How can people be so evil?!

Your thoughts?


sanil said...

I'm hearing a lot of stories about misogyny lately. :( It is unbelievable that people would treat each other like this any time, let alone in our "enlightened" modern times. Or rather, it should be unbelievable, but it can still be seen all over so you can't really help but to believe it. Sadly, it's almost harder to believe we'll ever be able to fix it in this life.

On a brighter note now that I've gone all depressing, I like the description of Jesus here. It makes sense and is an interesting way to look at it.

Amber said...

That last section is so sad and infuriating. And yet I am not at all surprised by it.

Re: Hagar - I find the different points of view on her so interesting. Growing up all I can remember being taught about her was very faintly tilted toward the negative. That she was an interloper who wanted to take over Sarah's proper position and the like. Now I can look at it and see how that wasn't the case at all. In no way am I saying Hagar was a perfect little saint but I understand the circumstances better now and I can see that she wasn't necessarily the evil person that it was implied she was in the lessons I was taught, you know?

Susanne said...

Sanil, yes, the Chinese stories were sad. Now I better understand the culture and stories behind why so many Chinese girls are up for adoption.

Amber, yes, I know what you mean about Hagar seeing her situation from a more grown-up perspective.

Thanks for your comments!

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